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Mayors hope to broker land-use solution

Four of them, plus Metro Council president, comment at Tigard forum.


JONATHAN HOUSE - Mayors from several westside cities speak during a Westside Economic Alliance mayor's forum at Embassy Suites in Tigard on Thursday.
Several mayors and the Metro Council president say they hope a new task force will help reconcile their conflicts over how to shape the Portland region for development over the next 20 years.

Four mayors who sit on the task force made their comments Thursday (May 26) in Tigard at a forum sponsored by the Westside Economic Alliance. Metro Council President Tom Hughes, himself a former mayor of Hillsboro, offered his comments afterward in an interview with the Portland Tribune/Pamplin Media Group.

Metro formed the task force in the aftermath of the council’s 2015 decision against an immediate expansion of the urban growth boundary, although the council also indicated it could reopen the issue in 2018, three years ahead of the usual schedule.

Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp, whose city sought unsuccessfully to add 300 acres for housing adjacent to industrial areas under development, is on the task force.

“The responsible thing to do is make modest adjustments where we can,” said Knapp, whose city straddles Washington and Clackamas counties.

“Right now the rules do not let logic be the foremost consideration. It’s a strict set of rules. So we are hopeful that the process will yield some modest changes that allow broader considerations to fold in to those decisions.”

Metro is required to analyze 20-year population forecast and economic data as part of the boundary expansion process. It has added 42 square miles within the boundary since 1998, although the agency estimates that only 6,000 homes have been built.

“It’s like forecasting what time it is going to rain next Thursday morning. You can’t do it to that specificity,” said Lou Ogden, who has been Tualatin mayor since 1994 and who also sits on the task force. “Whatever the number is, it’s wrong.

“It’s not about us against Metro. It’s about us trying to fix things in our communities.”

Hughes' view

JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden speaks during a recent mayor's forum with the Westside Economic Alliance.
Hughes, who also sits on the task force, heard the mayors’ comments, which followed the group’s first meeting in May.

He said afterward he was prepared to hear criticisms, but was pleased that they did not result in a bash-Metro session.

“I thought that process went very well; the tone was upbeat,” Hughes said.

“I was impressed with the degree of collaboration that existed around the table, the interest in actually getting something done — and the recognition that they probably were not going to get everything they wanted, but were willing to talk about what the parameters were.”

The task force consists of nine mayors from three metro-area counties, Hughes and two Metro councilors, board chairmen of Washington and Clackamas counties, and representatives of the state land-use planning agency, metro area home builders and the land-use watchdog group 1000 Friends of Oregon.

Hughes said he hoped that if legislation is needed, the task force can reach a consensus by September so that a proposal can be drafted for the start of the 2017 Legislature.

A decade ago, lawmakers set in motion a process for Metro and the three counties to designate urban and rural reserves where development would or would not be allowed over the next 50 years.

Lawmakers stepped in, after a 2014 decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals, to settle those reserves only for Washington County. The issue is unresolved for Clackamas County.

Others weigh in

Two other mayors on the task force weighed in during the discussion at the Westside Economic Alliance.

“I appreciate Metro opening this discussion back up because this discussion is not going to go away," Sherwood Mayor Krisanna Clark. said. "It needs to be solved, because the current solution is not a solution."

Unlike other cities, she added, “We have expansion of the urban growth boundary in an area (of Sherwood) we are not thrilled about.”

Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax said the intent of the mayors was for the cities to cooperate with Metro, not complain.

“It’s the kind of spirit we are trying to inculcate with the rest of the region, maybe even the rest of the state,” Truax said. “We have a huge housing problem and we can’t just sweep it under the rug.”

Jerry Willey, who is completing his eighth and final year as mayor of Hillsboro, has jousted with Metro over adequate land for housing, even as the city begins to open up development of South Hillsboro for a future goal of 20,000 new residents.

With a 2015 population estimate of 102,347, Hillsboro now ranks fifth among Oregon cities.

“Right now we are seeing a significant housing shortage and significant increases in rent and cost of housing," said Willey, who is not on the task force. "This is driving people out of the core city into the suburbs and outside our UGB. We are putting people farther on the road from their employment.

“We need to sit down with our regional government and our state legislators and figure out a better solution.”

Mayors Denny Doyle of Beaverton and Jef Dalin of Cornelius also took part in the discussion.

JONATHAN HOUSE - Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle and Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey speak at Westside Economic Alliance
By Peter Wong
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